Chief Harteau: Toughness and compassion inside and out

Yesterday, 300 people from all walks of life came together in the beautiful City Hall Rotunda to swear in our new police chief, Janeé Harteau. Everyone was positively beaming when her 13-year-old daughter Lauren pinned her with the chief’s badge. I couldn’t have been prouder.

Expectations of Chief Harteau are high. At last week’s City Council hearing about my nomination of her, more than 20 people from across Minneapolis stepped forward to unanimously praise her leadership, toughness and compassion.

And while we have high expectations of her, her expectations of herself and her fellow officers are higher. Chief Harteau pledged to us yesterday that the guiding principles she will bring to her job and the department as a whole are commitment, integrity and transparency. And those values start with her.

In Janeé Harteau, we have chosen someone who understands very well that a chief needs to keep two things in constant focus: the need to lead officers on the inside, and the need to understand pain, suffering and celebration in the community with the experience of someone from the outside.

Chief Harteau has come up through our department: she started as a beat cop at Franklin and Chicago 22 years ago, and at every step of the way — including challenges she herself faced in our department — she has succeeded and has risen to the top. But she is also a person whose character and experience will always allow her to see the perspective of those who don’t feel included, who feel left out, who need reform and change. She will be tough and she will be compassionate. That’s the person that I’ve come to know and believe we can count on every day.

A couple weeks ago, I was at the E.J. Henderson turkey giveaway at the West Broadway Cub Foods store in North Minneapolis, when a young mom and her little girl walked up to me. I asked the girl, “What’s your name?” and she answered, “My name is Janee.” I was delighted and said, “Do you know that you have the same name as the new chief of police?” This little girl’s eyes just lit up and she said, “She’s a lady!”

It is so powerful to think that this little girl, who is growing up in a neighborhood that has faced some challenges with crime, can look to the very top of our police and see someone that she can relate to.

And it is equally powerful that the person we have chosen a person to lead our police is someone who at every step of the way — on the streets and in the corridors of power — has shown that our new top cop is a real top cop.

Janeé Harteau has the toughest job in Minneapolis, and we know that there will be tough times. But when they are, I know she will lead with strength, compassion and openness. She is ready.

One final reflection. In the past, we have come together in the Rotunda for many reasons. But out of all those times, there’s one that I will never forget.

It was a moment 10 years ago, in the middle of the night. We had just come from the hospital. Melissa Schmidt, a remarkable Minneapolis police officer, had just been killed in the line of duty. Chief Olson and I walked into the Rotunda to announce this horrible tragedy for our city.

The lights were very low and it was very dark outside. And as we came down the stairs, an impromptu memorial was being set up. Police officers from all over the city had come, some in their uniforms, some in plain clothes. And that night, we saw in their eyes something that was obvious: they had lost a friend, they had lost a colleague and they had an enormous sadness in their faces.

But I’ll also never forget that at that moment, there was something that we rarely see in the eyes of these people, who are so brave and who protect us every day. It was fear. Fear isn’t something that you usually see there, but that night, as they mourned together the loss of somebody who meant so much to them, they looked deep in their hearts and recognized their own vulnerability. Those officers, who stand calmly and bravely between us and danger every day, recognized how dangerous their job really is. What they really mean to each other and all of us, and how much can be lost.

As Chief Harteau starts to lead the Minneapolis Police Department, we also remember Officer Tom Decker of Cold Spring as he is laid to rest today. We are reminded to show our appreciation of those who serve us every day, and the families who stand behind them.




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